The children of Bamburgh environmentalist Jonnie Wild have a lot to answer for.
It was their despair for the future of the Amazon rainforest, after watching an episode of Blue Peter in the late 1980s, which first inspired his interest in forest conservation.
“I came home one day to find them distraught and I just wanted to be a good dad and make things better,” recalled Jonnie, who also has a home in Harrogate.
At the time, Jonnie was chief executive of Bettys (Tearooms) & Taylors and in 1990 he and the company launched Trees For Life, pledging to plant a million trees. By 2007, the scheme had passed the three million mark.
He also founded the Yorkshire Rainforest Project, with a mission to save an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire.
Parenthood was also the launchpad for Wild’s other big passion, story-telling.
“Whenever we were on family holidays, I would get up early and write 500 words to read to the children that night,” says Jonnie.
“Then I’d be up early the following day to write the next instalment – it was a superb discipline.”
These days it’s his grandchildren who wait avidly for the next instalment of his latest tale and now, for the first time, his stories will be told to an even wider audience with the publication of his debut as an author, The Carnivorous Crocodile, a picture book for children aged five and under which has been brought to life by award-winning Berwick illustrator Brita Granstrom.
“We stipulated in the contract that the book was to be printed in Berwick by Martins the Printers,” said Jonnie.
“Although the book is in aid of African wildlife habitat conservation, we also wanted to support the local Berwick economy.”
Featuring the humorous adventures of a cunning crocodile, five brave flamingos and a whole host of entertaining African jungle animals, the story introduces themes of sharing, community and problem-solving.
All author royalties will be donated to two specific wildlife habitat conservation projects in Africa, Udzungwa Forest Project and Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.
Jonnie is closely involved with both forest initiatives through his role with an environmental charity, The United Bank of Carbon, a collaboration with scientists at the University of Leeds where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2011 for environmental and community work.
He has also been involved in projects with the University of York and wildlife conservationists at Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire.
The Carnivorous Crocodile is out now, published by Otter-Barry Books, with the paperback priced at £6.99. Visit www.otterbarrybooks.com/